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What if that was the best of it?

Woods Nash

This morning, when 9 a.m. came

and went and still my daughter

didn’t wake, I tensed with fear

she never would.

I can’t be alone in this.

Last night, in a Tex-Mex parking lot,  

she asked if heart attacks

are preventable. We were

strolling back to the car.

I would like to say I paused then,

a quiet hand cupped to her 

shoulder, and turned us both toward 

the light  of Orion. Off in the 


I wish I could add, a vulture

steadily picked at garbage.

But those would be lies.

Which aren’t nice.

Yes, I said eagerly.

Yes—well, mostly they are.

But in my defense: what the 

hell? Is that a seven-year-old 


If nothing else, it’s the second helping 

of enchiladas I shouldn’t salt.

And it’s the treadmill that arrived  

last March, still boxed in the 


Driving back from the restaurant, we 

passed a billboard that said Reflection 


What I’m trying to say is, last 

spring, while hiking, we were 


to come to a waterfall.

It rippled smoothly

down roots and boulders,

which had all been turned

the eeriest green. We could have stayed 

on the trail, but we climbed instead to 

the field above,

the cold creek,

and sloshed upstream


until it was clear

we would never find

anything like a source.

What if that was the best of it?

Tonight, in the car, she tells me 

about a book she started—

the spark for her question

about blocked arteries. The dad died

she says. The boy’s dad, in the story.  

Heart attack. It was sad. But maybe not 

so important? I don’t know yet. I 

haven’t gotten very far.

She reads on her own now.

Her voice had come from the dark  

backseat, where soon

she’s fast asleep. As fast as the deer 

that graze in the weeds

and stand perfectly still

when headlights sweep.

I take the turns slowly,

this long drive home another 

story we won’t get to finish 


About the Author

Woods Nash is Assistant Professor of Bioethics and Medical Humanities at the Fertitta Family College of Medicine, University of Houston. His poems and essays have been published by the Bellevue Literary Review, Journal of the American Medical Association, Louisville Review, Academic Medicine, Journal of Medical Humanities, and elsewhere. He serves as co-chair of Off Script: Stories from the Heart of Medicine, a twice-annual medical storytelling event that has been hosted by numerous venues in Houston, Texas.

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